Feeds

Do-Not-Call site has AT&T web bug

Trust us - we're a phone company

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The FTC's popular Do Not Call page has been a runaway hit with US consumers, with over five million signing up to avoid spam calls from telemarketers. But the web site hides a little secret: a web bug.

Most users won't be aware that the registry hosts a one pixel by one pixel image: a popular tracking ploy. And where does trail lead but back to AT&T, one of the most persistent telemarketers.

The FTC confirmed that AT&T Managed Services is its contractor, and hosts the website. When we asked if the FTC would consider removing the bug, they promised to call us back.

"How could this not be a conflict of interest?" asks James 'Kibo' Parry, who drew our attention to the tracking device. "It seems highly questionable for the 'Do Not Call' Web site to be providing visitor statistics to (or at least collecting visitor statistics via) a phone company.

"Undoubtedly the Federal government has bought Web hosting from AT&T from many years, and they're probably a very good hosting company for large-scale projects like this.

"But in this case, it seems like a major conflict of interest to place this "do not call" list in the care of a company that is in the business of selling their services through telemarketing (most of the telemarketing calls I get are from phone companies), and of course AT&T sells phone service to other companies who use the phone to call people.

"The important thing to understand is that it would be in AT&T's interest to know as much as possible about the popularity of the 'do not call' list and the demographic makeup of its members in advance of the list's publication and distribution to AT&T's competitors. For AT&T to know 'this list is going to be extraordinarily popular' in advance of the FTC releasing that news, or for AT&T to know "households in New York are more likely to be on this list than households in California" before their competitors do, that's worth money,"
says Parry.

AT&T, he notes, is notorious for aggressive marketing and "they seem to be going out of their way to share certain data (via the Web bug) with a second division of that same company for unknown reasons. There isn't any evidence proving they _are_ up to anything improper, but this relationship between the FTC and AT&T fails to avoid the potential for impropriety."

There is a clear conflict of interest here between the FTC wanting to regulate the activity of corporations such as AT&T, and AT&T being put in charge of collecting and maintaining this list, he says.

Here's the offending code:-

< IMG BORDER="0" NAME="DCSIMG" WIDTH="1px" HEIGHT="1px" SRC="http://g6589dcs.nyc2.aens.net/DCS000003_6D4Q/njs.gif?dcsuri=/nojavascript">

"I think you're barking up the wrong tree, Mr Orlowski," an FTC spokesperson told us when asked about the relationship.

Another spokesperson pointed us to the contract and said that AT&T Government Solutions was not permitted to share information with AT&T, the phone company. The site is managed by AT&T Managed Services.

AT&T Government Solutions won the $3.5 million contract to build the registry in February. The FTC says the process fulfilled tendering requirements but would not disclose who else had bid. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.